What are the best Omega-3s for eye health?
There’s a good chance your eyes are functioning as they should if your eyes are lubricated, making the whites of your eyes (sclera) white, and you have relatively good vision. But your genetics, lifestyle, and even your ethnic background may expose you to complications ranging from injury to eye disease. Fortunately, there are numerous and well-studied benefits of particular fatty acids that may help support eye health: Omega-3s.
The National Eye Institute says eating foods rich in Omega-3s may be an important way to support eye health. To help you make the right decision for your eye health now and in the future, this article will explain:
- What Omega-3s are
- The benefits of Omega-3s for eye health
- Sources of Omega-3s
- The best Omega-3 supplements
What are Omega-3s?
Omega-3s are a group of three essential fatty acids. These are:
Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA): This is the most common Omega-3 and is found primarily in plant-based foods. Your body converts ALAs into EPA and DHA Omega-3s, but this process is inefficient, and may not generate enough Omega-3s for you to get the essential nutrient’s full benefits.
Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA): Commonly found in seafood, EPA Omega-3s have a part to play in supporting several bodily functions, including your heart and eyes. Your body can also convert EPA into DHA Omega-3s.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA): Fish and other seafood are rich in DHA, but DHA is also found in fortified foods like meat and dairy. DHA has unique benefits for eyes because it’s a key component of retina development.
While these three fatty acids are essential to your body’s health, it’s important to note that your body can’t produce them on its own. You have to ingest Omega-3s, either through your diet or through supplements.
Key benefits of Omega-3s for eyes
Many of us take our vision for granted, but our eyes are incredibly complex organs. Tear film, lubrication, visual processing, and vision all must work together to help you turn the light your eyes absorb into images your brain can use.
Studies have shown that Omega-3s may have a part to play in each of these processes, which is why they may be useful for promoting eye health.
Omega-3s may support tear production
Tear film is the nearly invisible liquid that spreads over your eye when you blink. When your eyes are dry, it causes what’s called tear film instability. Tear production helps keep your eyes comfortable and helps with quality of vision.
Some recent studies have explored how Omega-3 supplementation may bolster tear film stability. In one study of 60 patients, half were randomly assigned an Omega-3 supplement for 12 weeks. They then completed an Ocular Surface Disease Index (OSDI) questionnaire about how dry their eyes felt, while researchers measured ocular surface parameters, like how quickly the eyes dry after a single blink.
The group who received the Omega-3 supplements had increased tear stability and lubrication–results that suggest this essential nutrient may have a positive impact on eye health.
Omega-3s may support eye health as you age
One study tracked the estimated Omega-3—specifically DHA and EPA—intake for 2,924 individuals aged 55 to 80 years who showed signs that their eyes were deteriorating. Researchers followed up with participants every 4.8 years over a 12-year period to determine the overall health of their eyes.
The study found that those with higher Omega-3 intakes generally had better eye health than those with lower intake levels. This study only provides a snapshot of the potential health benefits related to Omega-3s, but more research is necessary to confirm the long-term benefits on eye health.
Omega-3s may support retinal health
Your retina is vital for your vision. It’s your retina that translates light into images by sending signals to your brain.
In one meta-analysis, a scientist examined all of the available research to shed light on how Omega-3s may support long-term retinal health. The analysis focused specifically on factors that can impact retinal health such as age, lifestyle, state of the vessels that surround the retina, and more.
The study found that Omega-3s, particularly DHA and EPA, may support retinal health. There are several possible reasons for this:
- When tissue is low in DHA, it alters the retinal function and impacts visual processing.
- Both DHA and EPA also seem to influence how retinal gene cells express themselves and survive over time.
- Finally, Omega-3s have the potential to impact how retinal veins form and how permeable those veins become.
In conclusion, the studies suggest that when DHA and EPA Omega-3s are present at sufficient levels, retinal cells and veins may be healthier and more resilient over time.
Sources of Omega-3s
Diet and supplements are both common and effective sources of Omega-3s. In fact, the American Dietary Guidelines recommend that people consume three servings of fatty fish per week to get enough of this essential nutrient. However, supplements can be a convenient way to ensure you’re getting enough Omega-3s to benefit your eyes and your total body health.
The most common food sources of Omega-3s are:
Fish and shellfish: Marine foods like these are the only food sources of DHA and EPA, both of which may protect your eyes.
Nuts, seeds, and nut oils: These are popular plant-based sources and are rich with ALAs. However, they may not provide enough Omega-3s to get the DHA and EPA your body needs.
Fortified foods: Omega-3s are added to certain foods like dairy products or juices during processing. Like ALAs, fortified foods don’t always contain enough DHA and EPA, so it’s important to read the labels to determine exactly how many nutrients you’re getting.
What are the types of Omega-3 supplements?
The most popular Omega-3 supplements are:
Fish oil: Omega-3s are typically associated with fish oil. While it is a popular supplement, it may come with certain unpleasant side-effects such as diarrhea, constipation, and gas.
Krill oil: Like fish oil, krill oil is high in DHA and EPA Omega-3s. But it has other notable benefits that fish oil does not. Krill oil offers Omega-3s in their most natural form (phospholipids) and contains essential choline and the antioxidant astaxanthin. It’s also much more sustainably sourced.
Algae oil: Vegans, vegetarians, and those who are seafood intolerant can get their Omega-3s through algae oil. Be sure to read the labels though, since many algae oil supplements don’t contain EPA.
Support Your Eye Health With Omega-3s
In conclusion, prioritizing your vision's well-being could be as simple as incorporating more Omega-3s into your routine. Research indicates that these essential fatty acids may play a vital role in safeguarding crucial elements of your eyes, such as the retina.
Whether through increased consumption of fatty fish, or the convenience of a supplement like Kori Krill Oil, which provides 250 mg of EPA and DHA in various soft gel sizes, taking steps to enhance your eye health has never been more accessible.
Learn more about Kori Krill Oil benefits here.